Thursday, July 31, 2008

The Order of James Kennedy

James Kennedy, a fellow Chicagoan and friend about whom I've posted before, has just released his first book, The Order of Odd Fish, and I can't recommend it highly enough. Though I don't know that I could do it any justice in describing it. A less galactic Douglas Adams meets Lewis Carroll and HP Lovecraft? With a sprinkling of Roald Dahl and Star Wars?

Regardless, it's an amazing book, and staggering for a debut. I was honored to do the original cover for it, though the marketing powers-that-be canned it (ironically that terminated design was the publisher's own, not mine, but these are the workings of the lumbering beings we call mainstream publishing houses). Our mutual pal and Time Out Chicago book editor Jonathan Messinger wrote a piece about the book and its origins.

"A work of mischievous imagination and outrageous invention," writes Jonathan. No argument here.

Finally You Can Cuddle With Sinus and Loady

If you haven't already, rush to Johnny Ryan's online store and pick up the newly minted toys of Angry Youth Comics protagonists Loady McGee and Sinus O'Gynus. Hell, if you already have, do it again. Scatological, epithet-laden adventures aren't just for the funny papers any more.

The Bald and The Finger

In another crossing of comedian and musician (see the afore-posted clip of Paul F. Tompkins and Aimee Mann), I stumbled across a brief but nonetheless hilarious interview for New York Magazine: Moby grilled by Zach Galifianakis (whose performance as The Finger singing "Come On And Get It (Up In Them Guts)" is below, and beyond perfect).

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Yeah, But What About Leopard Vs. Octopus?

As if nature wasn't impressive enough, it has to give us battle royales that would make any sixteen year-old metal head (or, to be fair, Dungeons and Dragons player) surrender a gravelly assessment of "sweet." Wildlife photographer Hal Brindley brings us the incredulity-inducing battle of a leopard and a crocodile and the Seattle Aquarium bring us an Octopus grappling with a shark.

A nod to Boing Boing for the land fight and Emily for the oceanic rumble.


I'd not previously seen this bit of Lynchian cartooning strangeness and feel obliged to spread the word to those equally ignorant. A simple concept weirdly drummed to perfection. Thanks to Al for the tip.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Where Do You Get Your Colors?

I'm often asked that impossible to answer question, "Where do you get your ideas?" (Impossible to answer, that is, with anything other than "Um, everywhere?"). But only slightly less often I'm asked about the colors I use; "I like the colors" being the comment I receive most often on my books (to which I always want to respond a bit snarkily, "well... thanks for reading the colors?").

So I was thinking recently about palettes to which I'm repeatedly drawn. Why are these colors more pleasing to me than those? And I realized it stems from a combining of two worlds.

There are the muted colors of southern Ohio, particularly those of the autumn, but then there were the colors of television (which, highly regulated by my parents, were always a thing to be revered and awed). In reality's palette, there were the dying fields, fading paint of barns, sun-bleached signs having long since outlived the advertised product. And in television there was a pulsing madness that made me want too run out of my own skin. Frightening and infinitely inviting, a chromatic siren's song. In particular the products and aftermath of psychedelia, such as the above bit (unbelievably from Sesame Street) and below, The Yellow Submarine, which I recall watching slack-jawed at my grandmother's house while downing excessive amounts of ginger ale.

In my mind those colors print on top of each other, fading each other, warming each other, subdued on a piece of newsprint that's warm to the touch, glowing a little.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Easy Listening with Chuckles and Goldilocks

When my pal Henry Owings of Chunklet Magazine mentioned the possibility of interviewing Paul F. Tompkins (of whom I've been a big fan since his Mr. Show days and whose album, Impersonal, has been a long time coming), I couldn't help but do a bit of research and hope nobody else grabbed the interview first. Though I wasn't the lucky soul who ended up interviewing Mr. Tompkins, in my brief research I came across this (above) great rendition of "Baby It's Cold Outside" with Tompkins and Aimee Mann (of whom I'm also a fan).

Trivia worthy: both of these talented crooners (Aimee just possibly a bit more talented than Paul in that department) have a connection to director Paul Thomas Anderson, she through the soundtrack of Magnolia, and he through his appearance in There Will Be Blood.

You Don't Look A Day Over Twenty

This past weekend Sub Pop, the only record label more influential in my late teen life than Chicago's Touch and Go, celebrated twenty years of bringing some of the best bands around to the public's ears.

And I just wanted to extend a thank you. Nirvana and Mudhoney saved me from some pretty awful music when I was sixteen. As did one of the more unsung heroes of the label, a band that I think was one of the best they ever signed: Six Finger Satellite. Here's a brief clip from one of their songs. I'm not posting a video of them playing (though such videos exist) simply because no video can really do them justice. I've never seen, before or since, a band command a room quite the way they did. (Rumor (or anyway, an article I read in a Boston magazine the last time I was on tour) has it that they're working on a new album. I'll be first in line.)

If there is an heir to the Six Finger Satellite throne of being amazingly good but relatively under-appreciated, it's another Sub Pop band, A Frames. It doesn't get much louder or better. Like a buzzsaw through your brain case. But in a good way. And it's worth noting: the frontmen for both bands look like they eat crates of chickens for snacks.

Thanks Sub Pop, for helping to save us all from boredom. Here's to the next twenty years, provided we haven't melted the planet or created a black hole near France.

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Your Inner Lemur's Poem, Shel's Porn Beginnings

Poetry can be a vexing mistress, can't it? Or she? Whichever: either way, it's tough. But no longer! Gary Rudoren, one of the comically disciplined minds that brought us Comedy by The Numbers, has trained his expository powers on the world of verse in an article for The Poetry Foundation. I was honored to illustrate it. I apologize if the lemur looks too much like a chihuahua.

While you're at The Poetry Foundation's site, be sure to read the article by Jesse Nathan (who I had the pleasure of meeting through his involvement in Dave Eggers' Lots of Things Like This show) about the inauspicious beginnings of one Mr. Shel Silverstein (to whom Mr. Jacob Covey, designer extraordinaire for Fantagraphics, bears an uncanny resemblance).

Goodbye George, Fun With Censorhip

With George Calrin's recent death, his Seven Words You Can Never Say on Television (a sort of reexamination of which is in the above video) was mentioned about as often as his actual passing. But it wasn't until I gave the routine another listen and read more on the history of the Supreme Court case surrounding it that I gained an appreciation for just how much he accomplished with this single 1972 seven minute string of words. Just words, think of that.

So amid this reading up a bit on the history of the effect of simple words and thoughts and on censorship generally, my brother-in-law Dan's recommendation of this "censored" video from The Brighton Port Authority (featuring the voices of David Byrne and Dizzee Rascal) was perfectly timed. I don't know much about The Brighton Port Authority other than they seem to have a knack for working with great people and having fun with the conventions of what our fragile minds can handle. Somewhere in the seventies, George is smiling.

"I Am The (Badass) Law"

The Onion always manages to make me grin, with at least one headline per issue pulling an audible chuckle. But coming from a family with a mother who is a judge (the stalwart joke being: aren't they all?) and a little sister who works in the DePaul University Death Penalty Legal Clinic, this one had me laughing to the point of snorting. Tragically hilarious.